21 June 2104 – 7.5 miles / 1476 ft – Navigation Choices!
Thrills, spills, & valuable navigational tips abound in this bumper edition, three-way Race Report for Reservoir Bogs…
Charlie’s Version of Events:
This is the middle race in the Calder Valley Midsummer Madness series and starts from the glorious setting of the Hare & Hounds pub overlooking Hebden Bridge.
The RO had promised a twist in the format, and no this wasn’t a new injury that Finny had succumbed to, but rather a choice in navigation to each check point to avoid the usual follow my leader approach.
It was deemed a major event in the inaugural P & B fell championship so with a lovely day forecast I arrived at the pub expecting to be surrounded by maroon & gold, and I was – our very own Brangelina pair of ‘Racham’ (that’ll be Rachel & Graham). Shortly followed by Niall from our other power couple ‘Claraill’
And while I’m on a roll, what about Samie (Suzy & Jamie), Dary (Debbie & Gary) and Martham (Martyn & Graham). I know the last one is not strictly a couple but there is definitely a love hate relationship there which counts in my book.
Overall then, not many by Pudsey Pacers standards, but the presence of the word navigation in the race description may have been key to this, as it is a well known P & B aversion theory.
Off we set, all heading to the far side of the moor & checkpoint 1 – after which the route choice on the way back to the finish was a free for all. The initial debate on which track to take onto the fell & where exactly we were was soon abandoned as we all just followed the well known Calder nav man James (I’ve just had a hernia operation but I’m hard as nails) Logue.
This plan went well until checkpoint 1 where the two leaders turned left when the following mob were expecting a right. Niall was just in front of me at the time, so which way would he go? Would he swing left or right? (which by the way is a debate for another time) He finally went right.
My turn now to make the choice, Logue or Bourke? Each had pros & cons, each had their ‘special’ orienteering compasses firmly gripped alongside their correctly orientated maps. Each from the emerald isle with a knack for drinking gallons of Guinness getting up the next day with a glint in the eye & a bounce in the step & finding a sneaky trod to follow.
It was almost an impossible choice, as hard a squeezing a compliment for a good run out of Stevie, so in the end I had to go with team camaraderie & Niall was to be ‘the one’.
Sometime later, and after what could only be described as perhaps not the quickest route to the checkpoint, through various sorts of waist high vegetation, we finally spotted the marshalls on a rise above us.
Niall blamed other runners for taking him off track, ‘my bearing was spot on, honest’, and I began to question my direction of swing but it was too late to change tack now so off we set to the next checkpoint, hoping it was only a temporary blip in the great man’s navigational arsenal.
We trotted through plenty more tussocks & bog, catching our first site of Graham coming in the opposite direction. Who was in front? Impossible to tell. Finally we hit a track towards a minor summit & began to see other runners mostly heading to the right. Should we go that way? No, straight ahead it was, across the path & down into more tussocks & bog. But Niall there’s a local runner up there on the ridge we’ve just dropped off surely he knows where he’s going?
No just keep going, yes I’m sure it is, well maybe, ah no. B*****ks.
Sometime later, and after what could only be described as perhaps not the quickest route to the checkpoint, through various sorts of waist high vegetation, we finally spotted the marshalls.
Now at this point any sensible runner would have got out their own map and abandoned their teammate on what may be described as an ‘off’ day. But P & B are tougher than that so off we set to the last checkpoint (plus we were following a path straight to it)
Lots of other runners now coming in the opposite direction, we just follow the flow then, to take us right there. I’m leading us along, a couple of dayglo coats in the distance, nearly there. I set off down the last descent.
‘Charlie, Charlie, it’s this way’ comes from behind me. Niall’s got his map out, he couldn’t possibly be wrong again. So back up the hill & off after him. But hang on a minute, what about the dayglo coats, surely he knows where he’s going….
No just keep going, yes I’m sure it is, well maybe, ah no. B*****ks.
Sometime later, etc, etc, etc, ……..we finally spotted the marshalls.
That’s it then just the trot back to the finish now, more tussocks & bogs. Niall glances at the map & peels off to the right. Ah b*lls to that, sod the team mate, and I keep going straight ahead. Niall disappears out of sight and I end up all on my own on a suspiciously quite part of the fell. Where’s everybody gone? Then I hear shouts of encouragement over to my right.
Would you believe it Niall was not only correct but he’d hit the finish bang on. So I troop off down to meet him, along with Rachel who’s there guiding us in.
Runners now coming in from all directions, it’s just Graham we’re waiting for. Rachel spots a figure on the horizon, high stepping though the heather. I hope that’s not him, he’s flouncing about like a fairy. Well it was something like that she said anyway, some of the other words were caught in the breeze.
Finally he arrives & that’s it all done. Back to the pub for a pint & a bacon sarny and a debrief. A navigational book is part of the prizes and despite our protests it doesn’t come P & B’s way. Maybe they’ve heard of the theory and are keeping it for next time. Niall & Graham get other prizes anyway.
And the moral of the storey is be careful which way you swing, and never, ever, ever follow a P & B runner.
Even if they look like they know where they are going, they have a map & compass, they know about back bearings…………………it’s all a smokescreen. They really don’t have a clue!
Niall’s Version of Events:
I cracked open the curtains, looked out on a fine and sunny day, and thought this is a good day to race. I left my powerade (Claire) at home and struck off for Hebden Bridge. I navigated to the race perfectly, even without getting my compass out. Graham and Charlie were looking fit and raring to go. They were talking tactics about the route choice options.
I left them to go and get ready. Looking at the map I thought, this’ll be a piece of cake, great visibility and a small bit of navigation. I picked my route and lined up at the start. I eyed the competition. Mr. Logue, my fellow former Irish international orienteer, was looking like the favourite before we even started. I looked around at the other fell-runners and thought I could do pretty well here.
Lesson 1: “Never get too cocky, even if you’re just thinking it.”
The race started and Logue was off. I sat in and tried to get into a rhythm. We hit the fells and Logue disappeared into the distance. The man can really fly through tossachs. I was running pretty well, sitting in 5th as Logue arrived at checkpoint 1. He broke left, but I had decided at the start I was going right so I stuck to plan. A runner got passed me and I said “this is going to be interesting”. How right I was.
Lesson 2: “Keep your concentration.”
I had my bearing and headed for the next check point. The runner in front drifted left. I looked over and thought, yep he’s going too far left, I need to stay high, contour and drop into the control from the top. I continued on but the magnetic draw of the runner in front and Charlie Mac pulled me left.
Lesson 3: “follow your bl**dy compass not other runners! especially when they don’t have their map out!”
I headed down hill. The running was slightly easier going down hill and I was making good progress. I crosses over a large man-made drain and footbridge and continued downhill with charlie in tow. As we descended I began to realise that something wasn’t right.
Lesson 4: “If you pass a large man made feature on the ground it will usually be on the map! Relocate and use it as a handrail or as a feature to check your progress.”
And so we found ourselves slogging through bracken, tossachs and bogs and despaired when we realised how badly we had messed up. We slogged on and got the checkpoint as a load of runners skipped down hill from above the checkpoint. B*****ks. But we were still doing alright. I tried to get it together and set off for checkpoint 3. Charlie shouted words of encouragement – “use the force Niall”. I thought “I don’t need the force I just need to use my compass”. But I didn’t listen. We headed over the hill but drifted left again. We crossed over a track. I ticked it off on the map but didn’t realise that we were off course.
Lesson 5: “Follow your compass, you idiot.”
Charlie called over “do you think we should be on the ridge with all those other people?” I looked at my map and thought, nah I know where I am.
lesson 6: “Don’t be afraid to double check your location and relocate if necessary.”
Yep, Charlie was right, d’oh, so We circled to the right and got to the checkpoint. I was feeling annoyed and tired but the next leg was straight-forward. Just follow the track to the next checkpoint. Up and over the ridge. I settled in behind Charlie and we picked off a few runners. As we crested the hill Charlie saw some brightly coloured people in the distance. I didn’t look up though, I was fixated on my map. We hit a path crossing and I headed left. I called to charlie – ” it’s this way”
Lesson 7: “If you can see the checkpoint don’t listen to so-called navigators!”
Turns out that once again I messed up and dragged charlie along for the ride. He was right and we did 2 sides of a triangle. Maybe I could get the last checkpoint without any mistakes. Somehow I made it in one piece although my route choice could have been better. 25mins down on Mr. Logue. Steven, of Smitharding fame, looked on smugly as he realised he had stuffed me on a navigation course.
Lesson 8: “Fell runners can navigate, you just need to get your map and compass out. Just remember to trust it!”
So next time, I’ll bring my orienteering brain with me to races. I think it’s time I organised a Back-to-basics navigation course for myself as well as anyone else who is interested. I’ll get a date in the diary.
Graham’s Version of Events:
Arriving at the Hare and Hounds pub with Rachel along for support, I registered and excitedly perused the route map.
Some initial tactical discussions with Charlie and Niall suggested that perhaps the obvious order of Checkpoints 1, 4, 2, & 3 might not actually be the most efficient… or were they just testing me? I couldn’t tell but resolved to choose my own path and NOT simply follow other runners – the classic siren call of temptation for the navigationally uncertain.
The start was made up of 2 waves, with a smaller group choosing the option to set off earlier to give them a bit more time. After watching them set off and having a bit of a warm up run, our group of 50 or so runners gathered at the top of the lane, ready for the off.
Once done with the uphill lane start, we were onto the fell and moorland proper. The sun was shining, the route ahead seemed favourable, and of course it helped that everyone was headed in the same direction.
I felt like I’d made good progress and was 16th to the 1st Checkpoint. So far so good. Okay, out with with map and compass and just a simple matter of taking a bearing to Checkpoint 4…
Rooted to the spot, a strange feeling washed over me. As I stared down at the map it seemed to come alive. Contour lines expanded and contracted. Location names seemed to swap places, and indecipherable symbols appeared and disappeared before my very eyes.
Now, as anyone familiar with the fells of the Calder Valley will know, Midgley Moor and the surrounding areas are littered with ancient ruins, standing stones, and other strange monuments. It’s a mysterious place with a history stretching back to the Bronze Age and with more than it’s fair share of folklore and mythology.
Though I didn’t realise it at the time, I had clearly stood within some ancient magic circle of stones and the mischievous Fairy Folk of Midgley Moor now had me well and truly in their grasp!
“Put aside the map and compass, weary traveller,” they whispered, “we will show you the way…”
Completely in the thrall of the Little Folk, and with a smile spreading over my beguiled face, I set off running into the heather. And it was then that they began to play their tricks.
Looking off to the body of water on the horizon to my left, “No, it can’t be… is that… Sydney Opera House?”
As I continued to run, I began to feel the faint sensation there was something I was supposed to be looking for. My brain offered up random words. Cheese? Chair? Chainsaw? Ah, yes, CHECKPOINT.
A group of other runners whisked me back to reality – they had picked up the trail to Checkpoint 4, and in a moment of lucidity I followed. As I made my way round the steep bank to get my number punched at the checkpoint, I recognised Niall just leaving and realised I wasn’t doing too badly. I just needed to make sure I took a good bearing from here in order to head west, in the direction of Checkpoint 2.
The Trickster Folk of the Fells, however, had other plans for me…
Suddenly, oblivious to what I was supposed to be doing, I was compelled to follow something bright and shiny off to my left and set off at a brisk pace. I was soon joined by other runners and together we marvelled at the vivid scenery as we ran alongside the beautiful Niagara River, with the roar of its famous Falls growing louder up ahead.
As the air filled with refreshing moisture and spray, I momentarily came to my senses enough to realise I had arrived at the wrong checkpoint entirely – Checkpoint 3. This meant I was now frustratingly closer to the finish than I was to the next checkpoint.
With nothing else for it, I set off along the trod towards High Brown Knoll, a strange but by now familiar feeling gently guiding me on my way…
From this high vantage point I could clearly see in which direction the final checkpoint lay – just behind the imposing row of pyramids peaking over the majestic sand dunes below.
I don’t fully recall reaching Checkpoint 2, as I was forced to shield my face and eyes from the violent sandstorm that engulfed me, but somewhere in the chaos I managed to get my race number punched and escape the blistering desert heat.
The final challenge lay ahead, reaching the finish and escaping from the clutches of the Mysterious Midgley Moor. Steeling myself for the last leg of my journey, I pushed on further into the rainforest and was soon engulfed by the sweet smells of exotic flowers and the sounds of birdsong in the jungle canopy above.
After wandering for what seemed like hours, I decided to stop for a well-earned snooze on a bed of delightfully spongy moss. I curled up and made myself comfortable and just as I was drifting off something jabbed into my side – some sharp item sticking out from my bumbag.
Determined not to let anything deter me from my kip, my hand reached down to remove the offending object. As soon as my fingers grasped the familiar plastic, however, I was jolted awake with sudden realisation. It was my compass!
Clutching tightly to the navigational talisman, I heard the shrieking and hissing of the Fairy Folk as their spell was broken and the phantom woodland faded away like leaves in a breeze. I was free and my mind was once again my own.
Rubbing my eyes, I found myself in a sea of heather, with not another runner to be seen. Taking stock of the landmarks around me I had a rough idea of where I was on the map and quickly took a compass bearing in the direction of the finish. The route was tough going, with the heather almost waist high in places, but I dared not stray from my course. I had to trust the power of the compass.
As I crested the hill, I saw the familiar high-vis jackets of the marshals in the distance and quickened my pace: the finish was in sight. Flapping my arms with joy as I leapt through the deep heather, I crossed the final stretch to the finish line to find Rach, Charlie, and Niall there waiting for me.
Enjoying a nice cold pint back at the pub, the mysterious ordeal on the Moor soon disappeared like a half-forgotten dream. Commiserating with one another by sharing our tales of navigational error, I realised that getting lost was something of a rite of passage for our navigationally-notorious club.
There was always room for improvement but for the time being I felt a little swell of pride at knowing that I’d just qualified as a proper maroon-and-gold, ‘don’t follow me, I am away with the fairies’, member of Pudsey & Bramley.
Nial Bourke 10th 1:16:29. Charlie McIntosh 13th 1:17:54. Graham Pilling 37th 1:30:50. — 2nd Men’s Team. (Full Results)
Thanks to Rachel for the photos.